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Title: 1931: A Glance at the Twentieth Century
Author: Henry Hartshorne
Release Date: February 3, 2010 [eBook #31171]
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK 1931: A GLANCE AT THE TWENTIETH
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1931: A GLANCE AT THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.
"Coming Events Cast Their Shadows Before."
E. Claxton & Co.,
930 Market Street.
The contents of the following pages are taken from a diary, supposed to
be written in 1931, by a gentleman of leisure and good opportunities for
Should any reader be inclined to hold the editor or author responsible
for what is thus recorded, be it remembered that very little is expressed
concerning what _ought_ to be; the chief purpose being to show rather what
will _probably occur_.
A GLANCE AT THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.
_January 1, 1931._
I begin to-day to jot down occasional notes of whatever interests me
most, in private or public affairs.
* * * * *
Much sympathy is just now felt everywhere for the ex-queen of England in
her enforced retirement. She would have been perfectly safe in returning
to England; and she will, probably, before long, again take up her
residence at Osborne or Balmoral; but the extreme unpopularity of the
ex-king makes his return at least undesirable.
During our present, 71st Congress, meeting at St. Louis, a motion will
be made by a member from Texas for the admission of Mexico as a State.
When this is effected, Mexico will be the fifty-second State of our
Union. Some Senators are understood to doubt the advantage to the
country, at the present time, of this admission, on account of the
constitutionally unsettled character of the population. Since
Protestantism has so generally prevailed there, however, Mexico is said
to have greatly improved. The acceptance of the whole of Central
America, in the form of three Territories, must soon follow. For this
also, but little can be urged, except the now very old argument of
"manifest destiny." Commercial men say that it is time for this
extension to be made, on account of the growing importance of
interoceanic navigation, by the three routes, of Panama, Nicaragua, and
Tehuantepec. Our large trade with Japan and China requires, besides the
steamers running between San Francisco, Yokohama, and Hong Kong every
two weeks, more frequent and quick water transit from Philadelphia, New
York, Boston, and Baltimore, through one or other of these Isthmian
It has been abundantly shown that the anticipation of some speculative
persons, that the course of the Gulf Stream, and consequently the
climate of Western Europe, might be altered by cutting through the
isthmus, and thus connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, was
altogether erroneous. No change whatever in the direction, rate of
motion, or temperature of the great current has been observed. It is too
majestic a movement to be so affected.
It is remarkable how entirely mistaken, also, those croaking prophets
were, who formerly supposed that much addition to the old United States
would make a cumbrous and impracticable political aggregate. Since the
principle that only honest men shall be placed in public offices has
been adopted throughout the nation, local administration of local
affairs harmonizes so well with a central national government
controlling general interests, that all works smoothly yet; even with
the addition of the three great States which once formed the Dominion of
Canada, and the outlying territories of Greenland, Labrador, Hawaii,
Cuba, and St. Domingo.
A motion made in the House last year, but then postponed rather than
defeated, will probably come up again in Congress at this session:
namely, to hold the meeting of Congress every third year in San
Francisco. Alternation between Washington and St. Louis has now worked
well for eleven years; and Western men are getting clamorous about their
right to the same privilege in turn. Capitalists of San Francisco offer
to contribute five millions of dollars towards the erection of the
western Capitol, besides building and fitting out a Presidential mansion
in their city. This is handsome; and, since the central Capitol at St.
Louis, now nearly finished, has involved the expenditure of about twelve
millions, such liberality may be needful for the success of the project.
One of the California Senators has written an article on this topic in
the last number of the _North American Review_. He proposes, among other
things, that a statue of Abraham Lincoln shall be erected in front of
the Capitol at St. Louis, and one of William Penn at that of San
Francisco. At the three seats of government we shall then have
perpetuated the memory of the three noblest and most era-making of
American statesmen: Penn, representing the grandeur and security of
Christian justice and peace; Washington, loyalty to national
independence and republican institutions; Lincoln, the triumph, by
sacrifice, of liberty throughout our continent.
* * * * *
This mention of Abraham Lincoln suggests some retrospection. I remember
that when, sixteen years ago, in 1915, our national debt was all finally
paid off, great exultation was felt. In a Fourth-of-July oration at
Omaha, the speaker, a young colored lawyer, referring to the civil war
of 1861-65, as so largely adding to the national debt, said that his
grandfather was one of the first men of color who ever sat in the Senate
of the United States. Now, there are eight colored Senators, and fifteen
members of the House. Of direct African descent also, are the Governor
of Louisiana, and the Mayor of the city of Richmond, Virginia; the
immediate predecessor of the latter having been a member of one of the
oldest historical cavalier families of that State. The general officer
in command at West Point, too, is a colored gentleman, of excellent
reputation and qualifications. All prejudice of race, in fact, has now
very much disappeared, and is looked back upon as a preposterous error
of the past. Indian members of Congress number this session at least
seven--two Senators, Cherokees, and five members of the House from the
two new States formed from what was once the Indian Territory. The white
population of those States is also well represented in the Senate and in
We learn that the United States of South America are at present holding
their eighth biennial Congress at Lima, Peru. Brazil continues friendly;
but the people of that nation still treasure the traditions and usages
of their Empire. The constitutional limitations of Brazil, nevertheless,
make it imperial only in name and form; it is as liberal as was the
government of Great Britain in the latter days of its monarchy.
* * * * *
We thought it a great deal for the English people, twenty-five years
ago, to abolish the place of the House of Lords in their government; or
even, before that, so completely to disestablish the once powerful
Church of England. But the monarchy! What seemed so permanent as that?
Who would have thought, fifty years ago, in good Queen Victoria's
reign, that some persons then living might come to know of her throne
being as vacant, nay, as utterly overturned, as the Palace of the
It is one evidence of the old conservatism of the British nation, so
terribly shattered now, that the rank, titles, and estates of the
nobility are still left to them; with the qualification, that the eldest
son is entitled by law to only twice the share of each of the other
heirs of the estate; and the whole of any property may be sequestered,
by legal process, for debt.
Probably, now, the exodus of British nobles to this country, as well as
to the continent of Europe, so active already during the last decade or
two, will increase considerably. Marriage of American ladies with
lordlings, earls, and even dukes, is scarcely very rare at present; it
may be expected soon to become almost as common, at least, as such
titles are. It is whispered that it is not entirely impossible that the
ex-king and queen, with the royal family, may come hereafter to reside
at New Belgravia, in California, where several thousands of acres have
been latterly bought and occupied as estates, by English noblemen; or,
perhaps more probably, in Loudon County, Virginia; where the Dukes of
Cambridge and of Devonshire both own splendid properties.
* * * * *
No wonder that the Republic of Great Britain and Ireland should differ
chiefly from ours, in the greater share of power allotted to the Upper
House. If men of rank will (as some of them have already done) wisely
accept the inevitable change, and, with full loyalty to the Republic,
seek, or allow themselves, to be elected to places in the new
Parliament, they may, as Senators, exercise a power and skill in
legislation, which will be beneficial not only to their own order, but
to their country. They have the advantage of us, in England, in the
presidential term being ten years; ours, with difficulty, having been
prolonged only to eight. I believe that the preservation of the rank and
property of the aristocracy during the critical times just past, and,
indeed, the bloodless character of the revolution altogether,--have been
mainly due to the sagacious policy of a number of noblemen of large
influence;--especially the Argylls in Scotland and the Derbys and Dukes
of Northumberland and Bedford, in England, in timely bending to the
storm; yielding, step by step, what _must_ be yielded, and so keeping
more than if they had resisted all changes to the bitter end.
Especially do they now reap a reward for the good work of the
Anglo-Irish Landlords' League; who, with their fitting motto, "_Noblesse
oblige_," so liberally purchased from the old landlords, some years
since, most of the properties in the distressed and disturbed parts both
of England and Ireland, and sold them out in small farms to the
peasantry. Glancing the other day, in our library, at Hack Tuke's
pamphlet of 1880, on the Distress in Ireland, it is gratifying to know
that, to-day, nearly three-fourths of the whole island are possessed by
independent peasant farmers.
* * * * *
And India! It reads almost like one of Southey's or Edwin Arnold's
oriental poems to peruse the account of the splendid coronation of the
Afghan Emperor of All India. Retribution here, indeed, for the folly of
that charlatan prime minister who once prated about a "scientific
boundary" of the _British_ Empire of India. Another instance of the
"slow grinding of the mills of the gods," which is so very sure.
Good news continues to come from France. Republican principles were
never stronger; not a ghost of imperialism, and scarcely a thought of
monarchical reaction, appears. Bourbons and Bonapartes alike are
politically and sentimentally dead. Evangelical protestantism is
spreading and deepening in its influence. The extreme intolerance of
Romanism which prevailed for a while is giving way to a more reasonable
freedom of conscience for all religions. Yet I doubt whether any city in
Europe has fewer Roman Catholic worshippers than Paris, unless it be
Rome; where the hatred of all relics and reminders of the old papal days
is intense and pervading. It is to be wished that the Italian Republic
were as settled and conservative as is that of the French. Spain is now
going through its anti-Catholic fever; the banishment of all priests for
five years seems an extreme measure; but, after it, there is room for
hope that better days than those of Isabella of Castile await this long
fallow but once intellectually fertile land. The annexation of Portugal
is expected at least as soon as the present king dies; certainly no heir
of his will ever wear a crown.
The Pope! If he had only read, pondered, and _learned by heart_ Victor
Hugo's poem, "Le Pape," he might perhaps be still at home in the
Vatican. But the "infallible" can never learn. At Constantinople he is
at least safe. The Greek government there is secure against all present
foes. Then, the triarchate; is it not surprising? Pope, Patriarch, and
Primate of Canterbury! Roman, Greek, and Anglican, united at last! A
dream of the last century ecclesiastics is fulfilled,--alas, too late;
for the glory has departed from the tiara, the crozier, and the mitre
* * * * *
The Sultan, it is said, has found an asylum in Persia. The Shah allows
him a palace, but he is shorn already of half his _hareem_. Perhaps the
fate of Lear may be before him yet, though not from filial ingratitude.
_February 4th, 1931._
Important cable news this morning is, that the German republican
government last evening passed the bill accepting the proposal of France
to purchase Alsace and Lorraine for 300,000,000 francs. More interesting
still, a bill was also introduced, and is likely to pass, _ceding_ to
the French all the rest of the territory on the west side of the Rhine
bordering on France. The long-coveted natural boundary will thus be
theirs. How infinitely better this than war upon war for revenge and
The tunnel under the British Channel is nearly finished. It is to be
constantly illuminated with electric light, and, being a joint national
work, will be a free public (not _high_way exactly, but) way, for all.
Austria-Hungary appears to be, for a time at least, tranquil. The
emperor has conceded all that the constitutionalists required of him.
There are now only four emperors in the world:--those of Austria,
Brazil, India, and China; and the first two are so limited in power as
hardly to deserve the imperial name. The title of tsar has been
definitely denied to the present constitutional monarch of Russia; he is
really something between a king and a president.
Fearful indeed must have been the communist or nihilist war of Russia of
thirty years ago. The country has hardly recovered from it yet. Had it
not been for the loyalty of the large population of those families
emancipated in 1861 by the Tsar Alexander II. from serfdom, not only the
imperial family, but all the members of the nobility, and the whole
class of wealthy Russians would probably have been put to death by fire
* * * * *
Welcome to all lovers of peace and prosperity will be the late
intelligence that, at the Congress of Berlin, all the great powers have
agreed to reduce their standing armies to 50,000 men for each nation;
and that neither power shall increase its forces, without two months'
notice to all the rest. The "volunteer" military organizations will
still be allowed, besides these armies; but zeal for rifle practice
seems to be very much on the wane. It is probable that occasional showy
parades may soon be all that is left in civilized countries of the
"pomp and circumstance of glorious war."
It is painful to know that in Africa, and in Mongolian Asia, the arts of
destruction have been more rapidly borrowed from Europe than those of
peace and progress. It is said that Gatling guns, as well as Minié
rifles and dynamite shells, and the newly reinvented projectile Greek
fire, are now in use with terrible effect between hostile tribes in
Central Africa, officered in great part by European and American
* * * * *
The international coinage arrangement, on the decimal system, so long in
use between England, France, Germany, Italy, and the United States, will
be extended next year, by agreement, to Spain, Russia, Denmark, and
Greece. It is wonderful how our fathers, even almost down to the present
generation, were satisfied with any scheme of weights and measures other
than the metrical, now so universally in use.
* * * * *
From the South African Dutch-English Federal States we hear of
settlement and progress. The Australian Republic also is thriving.
Melbourne has now 600,000 inhabitants. How many millions of people
to-day speak the English language! All North America (except a part of
the people of Mexico); Australia; India; South Africa; and, this month,
after long consideration, Japan has officially adopted English as the
language of public affairs, to be taught in all the common schools. By
the way, the newly elected Secretary of Education of the Japanese
Commonwealth is an American; a graduate of the High School at Chicago.
The extension of the use of spoken, written, and printed English in
China is quite rapid, and so it is in Egypt, on the Continent of Europe,
and in South America. It truly bids fair within a century to become the
* * * * *
The purchase of Jerusalem and the greater part of Palestine by an
association of wealthy Jews, headed by the Rothschild, Montefiore, and
Belmont families, is an accomplished fact. Along with this it may be
noted that very many Jews have recently been converted to Christianity.
There is a large tabernacle for the worship of evangelical Jews just
built upon the Mount of Olives. At one of the first meetings of the
Sanhedrim after the Russian municipal government had been withdrawn, a
rabbi, bearing the significant name of Nicodemus, proposed this question
for discussion: "Ought we now to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah?" By a
small majority, the question was indefinitely postponed without debate.
Jerusalem is now lit by gas, except an electric light in one of the
central streets. Horse-cars are running in every direction; and a
steam-train passes daily to and from Jaffa on the Mediterranean. The
Mosque of Omar has been purchased by the Young Men's Christian
Association, which has within its walk a Bible-School of nearly 1000
pupils of all ages. A college for both sexes is in full operation at
Jericho. An English weekly and an American daily newspaper are issued in
Jerusalem, and an English daily paper also in Smyrna.
* * * * *
We learn that the Joint Commission appointed by England, France, Italy,
and Greece for the provisional government of Egypt, is meeting with fair
success; bad as the financial state of that country has been. The
American "Egyptian Improvement Company," with a capital of forty
millions of dollars, is paying an annual dividend of six per cent.;
which is extraordinary for these times. New explorations along the Nile,
near Luxor, have unearthed a number of royal tombs, with extremely
interesting paintings, sarcophagi, and hieroglyphic inscriptions. More
notable still; in a Coptic convent in Upper Egypt, there has been found
a Greek Codex of the whole New Testament; believed by palæographers to
belong to the third century. Among other things, it omits the concluding
verses of the last chapter of the Gospel of Mark, and attaches the name
of Barnabas to the Epistle to the Hebrews; not containing, moreover, the
reputed Epistle of Barnabas which was found attached to the Sinaitic
_March 26th, '31._
A telegram directly from Peking to Washington announces the extension to
all the provinces in China of the decree, already for a number of years
enforced in the great cities, totally prohibiting the sale of opium;
except by a few government appointees, at prescription of registered
* * * * *
The Euphrates Valley Railroad is almost finished. The main line of
communication between Europe and Asia will pass through Smyrna, Aleppo,
Bagdad, and Bassora on the Persian Gulf. A road will also run from Jaffa
through Jerusalem, and will connect with Damascus. Parlor, sleeping, and
hotel cars will be placed on all these roads at once, furnished by an
Indianapolis firm on contract.
By the completion, many years ago, of the trans-Indian line of telegraph
and railroad, and now of that from Calcutta along the Brahmapootra River
and through Southern China to Canton, the girdle around the world is
almost completed. Puck might travel it now in less than forty minutes.
Behring's Strait will, in a few months, be crossed by the Asian-American
cable, and a line of steamers, owned partly by Russian and partly by
American stockholders, will soon make that channel a ferry between the
Continents. The greatest tunnel in the world is that being constructed
through a spur of the Himalayas, in Northeastern India. The new
observatory on Mount Everest is furnished with three first-class
telescopes, and other needful appliances for astronomical observation.
* * * * *
All friends of Africa will rejoice to know that Liberia is extending its
annexations farther and farther into the interior. The Livingstone lock
Canal also, along the valley of what was once called the Congo River, is
contracted for, to be ready for navigation within twelve months. No
doubt at all exists of the success of the project for irrigating
portions of the desert of Sahara by means of Artesian, or rather not
very deep driven wells, by which the desert has already been made, in a
hundred artificial oases, to "blossom as the rose."
* * * * *
Ship canals seem to be among the special works of our time. It is now
almost a quarter of a century since the Caspian and Black Seas were
connected, through the enterprise of Russian capitalists. The newest
project broached is to cut through from the Gulf of Boothia to Hudson's
Bay, in latitude 65° N. and longitude 90° W. from Greenwich.
* * * * *
I think I shall join, this summer, one of the excursions which are
getting so fashionable, to Labrador, Greenland, or perhaps Iceland. The
Upernavik House is said to be very well kept, and filled most of the
season with boarders or transient visitors.
There is something yet new in these northern places. Switzerland is
getting spoiled and commonplace. Think of making the ascent of Mont
Blanc on a steam railroad! Think, too, of public school excursions to
the Yosemite, and the rocks there being placarded all over (until the
government very properly had them taken down) with advertisements!
* * * * *
Certainly man must begin to repair or restore to nature some of his
robberies. A small beginning of this has been made by the Society of
Acclimatization and Conservation. At their Acclimatarium in West
Philadelphia, including the old Centennial Grounds of '76, and the
Zoological Garden, munificent arrangements have been made, by the use of
glass, wood, iron, and water-gas heating apparatus, for the creation of
an artificial tropical and sub-tropical climate. All the glories of
Southern India, Ceylon, Java, Australasia, Brazil, and the West Indies
may now be seen there, in palms, cycads, eucalypti, acacias, tree ferns,
clinging vines, and splendid flowers, as well as in the many-colored
birds and insects of those regions; with their animals, also, which are
disposed, when needful for safety, in cages so large and yet so light,
as scarcely to give the appearance of imprisonment.
Also, the camel is now fairly naturalized in Texas and New Mexico, and
the two-toed ostrich in South America; on the pampas of that continent
travellers may meet with the gazelle, the springbok, the oryx, and the
kangaroo. Elephants are domesticated and used for court occasions in
Brazil, as they are in India. Tea and coffee are now largely cultivated
in California, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. In
exchange, the cinchona tree abounds more now in India than in Peru, and
the cacao or cocoa tree has been planted by thousands upon the southern
slopes of the Himalayas and in Persia.
On the other hand, the bison and the prong-buck are almost extinct in the
west. But for the great national parks, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Niagara
and others, carefully guarded, the American deer, elk, and moose would
all likewise disappear. Forest-culture, however, is, by the pressure of
necessity, attracting, as it ought, a great deal of attention, under the
guidance of the government Agricultural Department.
* * * * *
It seems to work well, better than some expected, to have our national
Cabinet enlarged by the introduction to full rank in it of the three new
Secretaries, of Agriculture, Education, and Health. The importance of
the last named of these is universally acknowledged; as well as the
necessity for State Boards of Health in all the States.
* * * * *
How much sanitation has advanced during the last half century! Human
life now averages 50 years in the United States; rather more in
England, and nearly as much in France and Germany. By stringent
regulations for maintaining cleanliness of ships, wharves, and, indeed
of cities throughout, along with the abolition everywhere of the useless
and detestable antiquated personal quarantine, yellow fever has been
almost absolutely extinguished; only ten deaths from it occurring last
summer in Havana, one or two in Pensacola, and not one in New Orleans,
Memphis, Nashville, or any other city in the United States. Cholera,
likewise, through sanitary improvements, has disappeared from the world,
except a score or two of cases annually in the worst crowded villages
near the Ganges in India. What a grand triumph of medical art, also,
following Jenner's vaccination, and Pasteur's later investigations, is
the protection afforded against the dangers of scarlet fever, measles
and whooping-cough, by inoculation with a modified virus, appropriate to
But, more than these, the waste of human life has been abridged by the
sweeping reform effected in regard to the abuse of alcohol. That was a
grand report made to Congress by the men and women of the "Alcohol
Commission" of 1910. It is said to have been principally written by the
chairwoman of the Commission, who was then, and continues to be still,
Professor of Political Economy in Harvard University. Local option in
nine-tenths of our States, with prohibition of dram-shops everywhere:
what a change from a century ago! A man was almost mobbed in Boston the
other day for selling liquor to a minor. On being taken before a
magistrate, and afterwards tried in court, he was imprisoned for three
years. Arrests, fines and imprisonment for selling whiskey by the glass,
rather frequent ten years ago in New York, are seldom now heard of. The
American people are sober! It looks like a monstrous and incredible
folly that we read of, that, once, even otherwise sensible and
well-meaning gentlemen would, on occasion, get staggering drunk.
Wines of the finest quality, equal to the best of Europe, are made every
year in California, New York, and Missouri; and they are occasionally
placed upon the table at entertainments. But it is regarded as an
intolerable indecorum for a gentleman to drink more than a single glass,
or a lady half a glass, at a time.
There is no doubt that the large and magnificent coffee and cocoa
houses (the latter most commended on hygienic grounds), in all our great
cities, have made much more practicable the shutting up of the drinking
saloons that formerly lined our streets.
* * * * *
Another great sanitary improvement was the destruction, a few years
since, of all the tenement houses of New York and Boston, and the
prohibition by law of their re-erection. The mortality of New York was
lessened by one-third the very next year after it was done. I am glad to
hear that, following this good example, a Citizens' Philanthropic
Building Association has bought up most of the ground in the worst parts
of the down town Philadelphia suburbs, in order to put up blocks of
model lodging-houses there. It seems unfortunate that the terribly
destructive fire in Philadelphia in 1890, occurring when all the
fireplugs were frozen with zero weather, should have laid waste Arch,
Market, Chestnut, and Walnut Streets, rather than those dens of poverty
* * * * *
When the new water supply for New York city and the Hudson River towns
from the Adirondack region, and those for Philadelphia from the upper
Delaware and Perkiomen, are completed, and sewage irrigation relieves
the rivers everywhere from pollution, it may be hoped that the yearly
mortality of our great communities may be brought down below 15 in 1000;
once thought to be the acme of healthfulness.
* * * * *
Cheapening of food goes on remarkably, along with close and high culture
of the ground. Proper appreciation of the share taken by the
_atmosphere_ in the nutrition of plants has made soil construction a
much simpler and surer thing than formerly. Roof-gardens in towns are
very common and successful; half of the vegetables consumed in Baltimore
are said to be grown on roofs. I once saw a book entitled "Our Farm of
Four Acres;" and another, "Ten Acres Enough." Very little skill should
be needed now to enable a frugal family to live _well_ on two or three
acres of well-made ground.
_August 20th, 1931._
I bought yesterday a pound of the best grass-flavored adipo-butyrin (as
good as any dairy butter) for ten cents; a sirloin of good western beef
for twelve cents a pound; and, best of all, a bushel of Rocky-mountain
grasshoppers, as crisp and delicious as could be, for only thirty-seven
cents! They say, the supply of these last delicacies will be short this
season; as hardly any have appeared yet in Kansas or Nebraska.
Excursions for procuring them from farther west are, however, quite
* * * * *
I saw an account of the sale of some Southern lands in this morning's
paper. The best farm land in Virginia brings 400 to 500 dollars an acre.
Some in South Carolina has brought 400 and 500; good Maryland farms 5,
6, and 700 dollars an acre. Manufactories, too, are in active operation
in all the old Cotton States. It has happened, as every one might have
known would be the case, that when a generation or two had passed after
the cessation of slavery, and the old hatreds had been buried in the
graves of the men and women who nursed them, prosperity would increase
in the South to an extent that could hardly be imagined under the
slaveholding régime, the "dark ages" of America.
* * * * *
How fast arts and inventions are accumulating! The nineteenth century
seems likely to be equaled if not surpassed in new material appliances
of civilization and luxury. Railroad speed now often reaches ninety
miles an hour, upon the straightened and generally elevated tracks in
use; with the automatic block-signal system so complete, that collisions
are nearly impossible. Coal-oil is now much used in locomotives, and
almost universally on ocean steamers. The supposed dangers of its
conveyance and employment have been readily met by suitable precautions.
The cable-telephone has been perfected; one can converse directly with a
friend or business correspondent in Liverpool, London, or Paris, at the
rate of twelve cents a minute. How these things promote terseness and
pithiness of speech! I believe no one, unless it be the stockholders of
one or two old lines, regrets that all telegraphic and telephonic
communication in this country has been taken under the control of the
government. Underground laying of telegraph wires is now nearly
Photographing in colors, a French invention, is one of the newer and
more attractive arts. Printing one's own books has become almost too
easy, by using the type-writer, with sheets of celluloid, warmed to
300°, instead of paper. The celluloid hardens at once sufficiently for
stereotyping; so that any number of thousands of copies can be taken
from such off-hand plates. Truly, "of making many books there is no
end." Pencils, moreover, whose marks are permanent, have so improved as
to render that intolerably nasty fluid, ink, unnecessary, and confined
in its use entirely to a few old-fashioned people.
_Magnifying sound_ has gone far beyond the microphone and megaphone of
the last century. Deaf persons are now helped by instrumental aid almost
as much as defective sight is by proper glasses.
Gunpowder and nitro-glycerin have both been utilized for the production
of continuous motion, especially in the propulsion of the contents of
transportation tubes. By these agencies, all the local letter
distribution of Boston and Portland, and a good deal of that of New
York, is effected by tube-transmission to and from the various branch
deposit-offices of the cities.
Locomotives are at present running, at a speed limited by law, on our
best common roads. Several wealthy gentlemen in Philadelphia use small
private steam-carriages to go daily between their homes and places of
business. The _pocket magneto-electric lamp_ is one of the neatest of
modern inventions; and _wiring power_ one of the most tremendous. It is
said that the energy of a twenty-horse-power steam engine may be
conveyed from place to place as far as 25 or 30 miles, by suitable cable
under ground. The only difficulty is to make its management safe, as the
least contact with the cable is as destructive as lightning; but this
will no doubt soon be done.
With all these ingenuities, no one has yet contrived a really successful
flying-machine. Man seems designed by his Creator to remain always "a
little lower than the angels" in this prerogative.
It is a good thing to be able to be rid, as we now may be, of dirty
anthracite or other coal in our houses. The distribution of heat,--by
pipes conveying hydrogen gas for burning in gas-stoves, ranges, or
furnaces, by steam, or by hot water,--is provided for on the pipe
system, extending under and through houses from large street mains, in
most of our cities. I am much pleased also with the method of _floor_
and _wall_-warming now common; although, for the wealthy, an open wood
fire is still one of the greatest of all costly luxuries. The uses of
coal, moreover, are yet so numerous, that all coal-carrying railroads
are earning and paying large dividends.
For the summer time, the "can't get away" Philadelphians may be
congratulated on the delightful sea-water baths they can have on Broad
Street, in water brought by the great marine aqueduct from Atlantic
City. The water is raised from the sea by tidal power (a kind of motor
now having many applications) to a reservoir at a sufficient height to
give the requisite descent towards the city. Its rate of movement, also,
is such that, being under cover all the way, it retains much of the
coolness of the ocean-surf.
The blanching or bleaching of the London fogs, by the improved methods
of consuming smoke, must be a very fine thing for the dwellers in that
overgrown city. We hear, however, of one old lady, a duchess, who thinks
the fog now to be very vulgarly pale; and regrets the good old days of
what she thought a much more picturesque gloom.
_October 3d, 1931._
I have just walked up from the Public Buildings at Broad and Market
Streets, whither I went to read the "City Bulletin" of telegraphic
intelligence from all quarters of the world. This is displayed by means
of letters thrown by the electric light upon screens on the four sides
of the great square tower above the public buildings. On the North side,
you can see the latest items of news from Europe; on the East, from
Asia; on the South, from South America, Africa, and Australasia; on the
West, from all parts of the United States and Territories. The
illumination is kept up until 10 o'clock every night.
Of items thrown out this evening, I remember only these: from Europe,
that the Pan-Catholic Council of the three historical churches (so
called), has decided to admit the precedence, but not the supremacy, of
the Pope over the Patriarch of the Greek Church and the Anglican
Primate. Between the latter two, the question of relative rank has not
yet been decided. From Asia, report comes of a terrible battle between
the Persians and the invading Tartar army, in which the latter was
defeated, with great loss on both sides. All the European and American
ambassadors are instructed to urge the conclusion of this useless but
ferocious war. From Africa, we are told of the election of a new
President, of Dutch descent, for the South African Federation. Of United
States intelligence of to-day, I am most interested to learn that the
intercollegiate prize for oratory, at Washington, for which the students
of twenty-five colleges competed, has been awarded to Miss Minnie
Stephens, a young lady of Atlanta, Georgia.
* * * * *
The International Weather Signal Service now covers, in its
communications, all portions of the globe. Predictions, or at least
indications, for three days ahead, are posted daily at Washington
(whence they are sent to our other American cities), and at London,
Berlin, St. Petersburg, Constantinople, Bombay, Calcutta, Canton, Tokio,
Cairo, Cape Town, Sydney, Rio Janeiro, Lima, Havana, and Vera Cruz.
What a practical comment upon the uselessness of our petty standing
regular army of twenty-five thousand men is the act of Congress just
passed, making West Point a school for Signal Service officers, and for
training those preparing for Arctic, Antarctic, and Ocean-dredging
Speaking of institutions of education, the National University has
completed its endowment of six million dollars, and has commenced its
organization by the appointment of a Board of Directors. It is to be
located at Chicago, St. Louis, or Omaha, as the Board shall conclude.
For the President of this University, an evening paper rather lightly
says: "so much difficulty exists in selecting an individual belonging to
this world, combining all the desired requisites, that it is in
contemplation to wait (our moon being uninhabited) until one can be
obtained from the planet Mars, or possibly Jupiter. The latter will no
doubt be best,--as one who can bear the great heat of that planet will
be well fitted to meet the fiery criticism to which he will be subjected
on all sides."
Industrial and half-time manual-labor schools are now, in the public
school systems of our States, getting to be the rule rather than the
exception. Astonishing it is, also, to look back to the time, which I
can remember, when, instead of the natural and rational method of
coeducation of the sexes, now universal (with very few exceptions), it
was a common thing for boys and girls, young men and young women, to be
educated,--monastery and nunnery fashion,--entirely apart!
_Out-of-door_ schools are a grand improvement of our times. They are the
old kindergartens of Pestalozzi and Froebel developed. The best that I
know is in West Philadelphia, near the Acclimatarium. In winter, the
teachers and children go together for study into the inclosures of the
Acclimatarium, for at least three hours every day. In summer, their
range is extended through Fairmount Park, and farther, for the same or a
longer period. The pupils enter this school at six or seven years of
age, and continue the "nature course" until twelve or thirteen. Then
they take up, elsewhere, a larger share of book studies; so that they
may be, by sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen, prepared for college, if
desired; and after college, for the Universities.
The degrees of Bachelor and Master of Education, first bestowed by some
of the great Western Universities, are now granted also by most of our
kindred Eastern institutions.
Everybody is satisfied that the great English Spelling Reform is not
going on too fast. Our children are taught the new spelling, the books
being, in all the public schools, changed once in ten years. With this
gradual transition, under the direction of the Anglo-American
Philological Association, we are safely approaching an era of reasonable
A seemingly extreme rule, but really very good, has lately been passed
by the directors of three of the largest public libraries in this
country, at the urgency of the Department of Mental Hygiene of the
American Social Science Association. It is, that no novels shall be
given out on the application of minors; and that only one novel in three
months may be taken out in any one stockholder's name.
_December 1st, 1931._
The presidential address at the annual meeting of the Intercontinental
Scientific Congress, this year held at Melbourne, Australia, has just
been published. I find in it mention of the following, among other, late
advances in science.
Proof seems to be accumulating that the suggestion made by Lockyer in
1879, that all the supposed chemical elements are really modifications
of the same substance, and that soon after made by others, that this
common substance is only _condensed universal ether_, the medium of
luminous, electrical, and other vibrations, is going to be accepted as
correct. The opinion that the _panæther_, as it is best called, is _not
atomic_ in its constitution, while all the combinable elements are so,
is also gaining ground.
More exact knowledge being now had of the relations existing among the
different so-called elements, it has become possible to work out the
atomic theory, so far as to prove that the law of chemical attraction is
identical with that of gravitation; namely, that its force is directly
in proportion to the number and mass of the atoms, and inversely as the
squares of their distances: _atomic distances_ being, by extremely
abstruse calculations, approximately estimated. The long wished for full
explanation of the relations between frictional electricity, voltaism,
magnetism, heat, and light, seems likely soon to be obtained; and,
consequently, also the exact physical relations of the vital or
formative force of animals and plants.
It is quite well understood that, as Newton himself anticipated, the law
of gravitation was but a step, though a very great and important one, in
the generalization of cosmic changes and forces. We seem to be on the
eve of another advance, needing only the completion of some difficult
mathematical and physical analyses,--in which all so-called attractions
and repulsions whatever will be resolved into results or phenomena of
motion; ethereal, atomic, molecular, and massive motions; whose mutual
reactions and momenta make the infinite complexity of the universe.
Towards such a conclusion, serviceable contributions were made many
years since, by three American cosmologists, Norton, Pliny Chase, and
The 320th asteroid was discovered at Pike's Peak observatory, during
last summer. I may jot down here too, the record of the first
observation of a new telescopic comet, last month, by a senior student
of Bryn Mawr College for Women.
Australia, according to the address mentioned, has at last furnished to
palæontologists the real _missing link_, not between men and apes, which
they have generally given up, but between vertebrate and invertebrate
animals. So that the famous ascidian mollusc, with a semi-vertebral
larval stage, which nourished in the writings of Darwin and others, is
no longer needful. The fossil referred to is an ancient fish-like worm,
or worm-like fish, to which the name of Entomicthys amphisoma has been
provisionally given. It is still more remarkable than the amphioxus or
lancelet, which has been long known.
By the improved methods of measuring both space and time in practical
astronomy, it has been rendered nearly or quite certain that our earth
is gradually approaching the sun; and that the same is true of all the
other planets. Small as the rate of this approach is, it is enough to
confirm the belief of Sir William Thomson and others in the 19th
century, that our solar system is constructed for finite (not, as
Laplace and Lagrange thought, infinite) duration; the whole economy of
planets will at last run down like a clock, and all the elements will be
melted together with fervent heat.
Among the leading discoveries of the year is that of the long-looked-for
third moon of the extra-Neptunian planet. The name of that planet
itself, although it has been known since 1885, is not yet finally
settled. Some call it Pluto; others Terminus; it being almost certainly
the outermost body of our solar system.
A good observation of the intra-Mercurial planet Vulcan was made from
Mount Everest some weeks ago, by the Hindu astronomer-imperial on duty
Of the _corona_ seen around the sun during eclipses, the tendency now
seems to be to return to the explanation long ago proposed and
discarded; that it is neither telluric, _i.e._ produced by our
atmosphere, nor, strictly or only, solar; but mainly _selenic_; that is,
caused by the rays of the sun being _diffracted_ around the edge of the
moon intervening between us and it. The different appearances of the
corona as seen from different places on the earth are thus accounted
for, as well as their diversity during different eclipses, by the
irregularities upon the lunar surface.
A fine chemical advance has been made in the laboratory of the
University of Vienna, in the manufacture, from strictly _inorganic_
materials, and at very moderate and remunerative cost, of the alkaloids
quinia, strychnia, atropia, morphia, and others. No chemist, however,
has yet made a single speck of albumen, or any other truly protoplasmic
substance. By the consent of all biologists, the disproof of the
possibility of "spontaneous generation" is as strong as ever.
* * * * *
How utterly impossible is it for any one to keep up with the science or
the literature of the present day! One must have the hundred hands of
Briareus, and the hundred eyes of Argus, with brains to suit, to know
anything at all worth while, in our age. Happily, it is not expected of
us, of anybody, to be Aristotles or Humboldts now.
I like very much the Philadelphia Library Public Reading Course, carried
on for the last seven or eight years. The Readers there give, twice
every week, summary oral accounts of all that has been last printed in
all parts of the world; one hour each evening being given to literature,
and another hour to science. Once a month, the latest important books
are briefly reviewed. This saves busy people a vast deal of time. The
Reader is a sort of animated newspaper and monthly magazine combined.
In social life, the once neglected accomplishment and enjoyment of
conversation are coming up again. The "Conversation Club" is a great
success. Its members meet once a week, ladies and gentlemen, young and
old, single and married, together, at each other's houses, to the number
of from fifty to a hundred and fifty; from half past seven or eight, to
half past ten sharp, without any of the trouble or expense of food or
drink; which it is rationally supposed they have all had or can get at
home. Dancing is omitted, and only vocal music is allowed; this being in
rooms apart from the main parlors. With those living out of town,
afternoon hours are preferred; and only tea, coffee, cocoa, and crackers
are placed on side tables for those who come from distant places.
Similar _salons_ to these are usual in Paris; one of them occurring on
the same evening in the week as ours. Last week, by arrangement, a half
hour's telephonic discussion was maintained between Philadelphia and
Paris, on the merits of the last two French translations of Longfellow's
Twice at least in the winter there are yet larger gatherings of the same
kind, at our Academy of Natural Sciences, and at the Academy of Fine
Arts. In these, 500 or 600 people are commonly assembled; and very
pleasant occasions they always are.
* * * * *
The "new Raphael" is the name rather oddly given to a young painter of
extraordinary genius, especially for depicting the human face and form.
Oddly given, I say, because the artist is a young woman, daughter of a
respected minister of the Society of Friends, living in North Carolina.
A Greek poet, chiefly lyric, recalling Pindaric days, has sprung up
lately in Athens. His rendering of the dramas of Sophocles into modern
Greek for the stage in Athens and Constantinople, is said to have
attracted much attention amongst theatre-goers.
A reunion of literary men and women of all nations is to be held at
Athens, in view of the ruins of the Parthenon, during May, next year.
A trial is now going on in this city, which is likely to illustrate
well the difference between the present method of trial by courts of
judges, and the old way by juries. Three judges must always be present;
and the statement of the accused, in criminal cases, is taken as part of
the evidence. The abomination of allowing lawyers to engage _expert_
witnesses on behalf of their respective sides, on questions of poisoning
or insanity, has been done away with. The court, in such cases, appoints
a commission of experts, who make a joint report in every instance.
Capital punishment has been abolished in all our States, and in all
European countries except Spain, Portugal, and Russia. Life-imprisonment
has taken its place; without pardoning power anywhere, even when the
plea of insanity has been sustained. A great gain in our jurisprudence
latterly is, making the proved _intent and effort to kill_ identical
before the law with successful murder. Moreover, repeated crimes,
burglaries for instance, are punished by cumulative increase of the
penalty after every new offence and conviction. As all imprisonment is
now conducted on the separate plan, jails are no longer, as once,
training schools for crime.
_December 25th, 1931._
The bells are ringing for the various church celebrations of Christmas.
I will, as I hear them, jot down some items about late religious
affairs. In yesterday's "Anglo-American Weekly Times," I read a
well-written sermon by the Dean of St. Paul's, London, on the evidence
of the wisdom and goodness of God derived from the facts of evolution;
not Darwinism, as that phase of the theory of development has latterly
become practically of secondary importance. Justice was done, however,
in this discourse, to the immense contributions made by Darwin's genius
and labors to the facts of natural science, and to the proofs of design
abounding in the creation.
* * * * *
The revised version of the Bible (of which the New Testament was issued
in 1881) is now universally in use. The version of King James, so
called, has become antiquated, and is consulted almost alone by scholars
for special inquiries. Editions are now to be had of the later version
in which the reformed spelling of 1925 is carried out.
The Old Catholics, of whom Döllinger and Loyson (Father Hyacinthe) were
leaders during the last century, have carried their reforms much farther
than the High Church section of the Anglican body. They are, it is said,
looking towards junction with the Reformed Episcopal Church, which now
numbers about 600,000 members.
A striking feature in the religious "movement" of our times, is a
general tendency towards the _congregational_ principle of association.
Councils, convocations, synods, conventions, and "yearly meetings" have
more and more an advisory, and less and less of compulsory power, over
independent local congregations. Denominations have so multiplied, that
it looks as if, after awhile, every man may be his own pastor, elder,
bishop, or over-seer,--indeed a whole "church" by himself. Let us hope
that this disintegration only anticipates the final _reunion_ of all
Christians in one flock (perhaps even in one fold), under one shepherd.
The World's Young Men's Christian Association now counts more than two
million members. Its annual conventions meet alternately at
Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans, Washington, London, Rome,
Constantinople, Jerusalem, Calcutta, Melbourne, and Tokio. Women's
Christian Associations number, in the aggregate, almost as many members.
On New Year's day, 1932, a union prayer meeting of all nations is to
convene under the dome of St. Peter's at Rome. It will be continued
daily for two weeks. At least ten languages will be used by those there
assembled for united worship.
* * * * *
At the Pan-Presbyterian Convention, met at San Francisco on the 15th of
last month, a resolution was passed, after protracted debate, in which
it was declared to be the sense of that body that Christian doctrine, in
the progress of modern enlightenment, must not be hereafter fettered by
any prescription, however venerable, of merely human authority; no
minister being bound, therefore, to exclusive adherence, in his
statement of doctrines, to language not contained in the Holy
Scriptures. This was understood as allowing, as entirely optional, the
abandonment of what has been known as predestinarian Calvinism.
Three weeks later, in the Unitarian Convention at Boston, the following
resolution was brought forward:--
"Whereas, the occasion for the origin of New England Unitarianism was
the need of protesting against extreme and erroneous dogmatic teaching,
whereby the truth and beauty of Christianity were becoming obscured and
misrepresented; and whereas, at the present day, reform in this respect
has become general among the so-called Evangelical churches:
"Therefore Resolved, that the mission of Unitarianism in this country
may be regarded as having been performed and ended."
This was passed by a fair majority. The dissenters, after the
adjournment of the Convention, reorganized on the same basis as before,
with a view to permanence; but several of these joined, somewhat later,
the Association of Free Religionists, who have discarded the name of
* * * * *
A Congress of German philosophers and advocates of free thought was held
some months ago at Munich. At its closing session, a declaration was
proposed as embodying the main present result of free thought in
Germany. It sets forth that the ideas of Christianity are necessary to a
satisfactory theory of man and the universe. These ideas are said to
be, the existence and eternity of God, the visible manifestation of God
to man, the suffering of God with and for man, and the visitation of
God, spiritually, to men.
The facts of physical and natural science, interpreted according to the
matured scheme of evolution, prove a _beginning_; a world not eternal.
The philosophy of the Absolute requires recognition of the existence of
an _unbeginning_ and unending Being. Cosmic science proves _unity of
plan_, _purpose_, and _beneficence_, throughout the universe. Man's
intelligence necessitates the belief that a greater Intelligence must
have created him. If, then, God is, and is good, it is impossible that
He should not make Himself known to man, both visibly and invisibly:
once, at least, in history, and always spiritually. If man, being free,
errs, he must, by the necessity of the laws of the universe, in
deranging its harmony, suffer and cause suffering. But God may Himself
accept this suffering, and so abate it; making it finite and brief,
instead of unending, as it must, without His interference, be. All these
conditions are met by the Christian religion; which has also stood the
severe test of many martyrdoms. "While, therefore," it is concluded,
"we regard ecclesiasticism and ritualism as among the greatest of evils,
we are convinced that Christianity is the only religion reconcilable
with philosophy; and we therefore accept it as true."
This declaration is reported to have met with very loud and angry
dissent from a considerable minority. The latter resolved themselves,
finally, into two schools: one, the larger in number, of rational deists
or theists, repudiating Christianity; the more extreme portion, into a
new sect or organization, which met shortly afterwards in Dresden.
These last free-thinkers, when assembled, declared that they were
discontented with all previous protests against religion, as not going
sufficiently far. "We have had enough," they said, "of futile efforts to
deny or ignore the existence of God. We believe that He exists, and we
_hate_ Him. We regard the Satan of Milton as the noblest character in
all literature and history. All honor from us to those who, in history
like Strauss, in philosophy like Schopenhauer, in science like
Hoeckel, and in literature like Heine, have tried, directly or
indirectly, to make the Christian's God seem unknowable or hateful to
men. But the time has come to pass beyond their moderation. We unite
ourselves in a league, not as atheists, but as _misotheists_, against
all that is called God; not in unbelief, but in revolt and utter
Such is the substance of the programme, announced on the pages of the
"Anarchist," published in New York, of the new Misotheistic Association.
It fraternizes, very naturally, with the Anti-Christian Society of
London, and the Grand Order of the Knights of Lucifer at Rome.
Lower down in the scale still, but with much the same _animus_, is the
secret order, now said to number many members in nearly every city in
Europe and this country, though originating in Bombay, India, of _Thugs_
and _Burners_. These are vowed to take every opportunity to do injury to
the cause not only of religion, but of public and private virtue and
order; by arson, assassination, and other crimes. Through the vigilance
of well-organized police, they have, so far, been prevented from
effecting very much mischief; but they constitute one of the worst of
all the dangers of our otherwise generally secure civilization.
In the Calcutta "Weekly Record of Asia," just arrived, I find
particulars of the late conversion of the young Emperor of China to
Christianity, and of the consequences of that event.
His instructor, a few years ago, while teaching him the English
language, selected the Bible as the best specimen of its literature.
Reading it alone, he became interested in it, and at last convinced of
its truth. When a Moravian missionary requested and obtained an
interview with him, his faith was confirmed. As soon as he came to the
throne, he resolved, after much prayer, fully to act out his new belief.
Confiding this state of mind to one of his trusted counsellors, such
changes were made in his household and government as would insure the
prompt and effective carrying out of the imperial mandates. Then he
caused a proclamation to be made throughout the empire, that he, the
Emperor, acknowledged the God of the Christians' Bible, and commanded
all his faithful children to accept the religion of Christ. So much had
been done already by persevering mission-work in China, as well as in
India, that the people were not altogether unprepared for this change.
But more was to come yet. In the solitude of his chamber, the Emperor
became satisfied that the God of Christianity is a God of Peace. War
must be absolutely forbidden and brought to an end. In a second
proclamation, all his subjects were commanded to lay down their arms;
and disarmament began at the imperial palace itself; maces alone being
thenceforth carried by its officers and guards.
At this juncture, a rebellion occurred, headed by a descendant of the
leader of the great rebellion of the nineteenth century. A considerable
undisciplined army of disaffected men was brought together, and they
marched toward Peking. The Emperor summoned his grand mandarins, and
also his chief religious advisers, two venerable native Christian men.
Between these, he was borne out in his palanquin upon the great highway,
followed by the imperial guard, unarmed, towards the approaching army.
Cannon were discharged by the latter; but the balls went far over the
heads of the imperial procession. Nearer and nearer they came; and, when
within hearing, the native preachers accompanying the Emperor, and the
Christian members of his guard, sang together an exultant Christian
hymn. Almost paralyzed with astonishment, the rebels still slowly
advanced. As they came within a few hundred yards, the Emperor left his
palanquin, and he and all his suite prostrated themselves in silent
prayer to God. As if struck by a power from on high, the rebel soldiers,
rank by rank, fell also to the ground; leaving their three chief leaders
sitting on their horses alone. Then the Emperor and chief mandarin
arose, and the latter solemnly bade the officers to do obeisance to
their Emperor. One after another, they slowly dismounted, and each, as
he came towards the Emperor, kneeled down, and, drawing his sword,
performed the hara-kari, or national penal suicide. The chief mandarin,
in a loud voice, commanded the people to return in peace to their homes,
with the forgiveness and blessing of their Emperor. They obeyed; and the
rebellion was at an end.
* * * * *
Of items of religious information nearer home, I may take note, that the
Foreign Missionary Association of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of
Orthodox Friends has now seven missionaries in different fields; most of
them engaged in Central Africa. The Society of Friends has altogether
more than sixty foreign missionaries laboring in different parts of the
The missionaries sent out by all Protestant denominations together, from
Europe and America, are hardly more numerous now than they were fifty
years ago; their work being so much better done, generally, by their
converts, the _native preachers_. Not an island in the Pacific is
without its Christian church; not a spoken dialect in the world without
its Bible. Yet the world has not, by any means, become altogether
Christian, even in Christendom itself.
A great revival has just begun in Brooklyn. It has already reached New
York, and is beginning to arouse interest in Philadelphia, Boston, and
Baltimore. Crowds of men and women of all classes, especially the
poorest and least cultivated, gather noon and night to religious
services of a simple but most fervent character. Old men say they have
known nothing like it since the days of 1857, or the Moody and Sankey
meetings of 1874-76. By cable we learn that something of the same wave
of religious movement has appeared in London, Berlin, and Paris. We ask,
what are we to think of it? Is there a spiritual atmosphere, with its
heights and depths, mysteriously swayed from land to land? We can only
wait and see.
_December 31st, 1931._
I have been reading over the pages of this diary for the year just
coming to a close. This has led me to some retrospection, looking yet
farther back, and comparing the present with the last century. The 19th
century was proud of itself; and we of the 20th have hardly gained all
that we should in true humility. Both centuries have had their great
events and great advances; and both, their weaknesses, errors, and
absurdities. I will venture a comparison of some of these.
The _most absurd_ things of the 19th century, I think, were these: the
decree at Rome of the infallibility of the Pope; England's bolstering up
the Turkish Empire for fear of Russia attacking India; Lord
Beaconsfield's administration altogether; the financial policy of the
American green-back party; the belief in spirit-rapping, in the first
principles of Herbert Spencer's philosophy, and in the sufficiency of
Darwin's theory of natural selection to account for the ascent from
lower to higher species; the shot-gun quarantine in the South against
yellow fever; the toleration of the waltz, in _otherwise civilized_
society, when even Lord Byron denounced it; and the unreformed spelling
of the English language.
As the greatest national _crimes_ of the last century, I would name the
British government forcing by war the trade in Opium upon China, and the
long-continued bad faith of the United States government towards the
Indian tribes of the West.
Perhaps the greatest _wonders_ of the 19th century were the invention of
photography, solar spectral analysis, the radiometer, the phonograph,
the photophone; in public affairs, the reunion of the old and new school
Presbyterian Churches, and the disappearance, by civil war, of negro
slavery in the United States.
The greatest _triumphs_ of the first part of the 20th century have been
the abandonment of all tariffs for protection in the United States, as
well as in Europe, establishing perfectly free trade throughout the
world; the successful introduction of woman's suffrage in almost every
State of our Union; the acceptance of the principle of arbitration,
through international congresses, in all governmental disputes, by the
great powers of both hemispheres; the practical conquest of intemperance,
by the abolition of drinking-houses everywhere; and the disappearance
of sectarianism amongst Christian denominations,--excepting only the
persistently exclusive claims of the three great historical churches.
* * * * *
We are clearly not yet at the close of history. Is the world nearly
prepared for its great consummation? Not yet are fulfilled the beautiful
prophetic words of the poet Cowper, now far too seldom read:--
"Error has no place;
The creeping pestilence is driven away!
The breath of Heaven has chased it. In the heart
No passion touches a discordant string,
But all is harmony and love. Disease
Is not: the pure and uncontaminate blood
Holds its due course, nor fears the frost of age.
One song employs all nations; and all cry
'Worthy the Lamb, for he was slain for us!'
The dwellers in the vales and on the rocks
Shout to each other, and the mountain tops
From distant mountains catch the flying joy,--
Till, nation after nation taught the strain,
Earth rolls the rapturous hosanna round."
Not in our time have dawned such days as these. But, let our hearts be
lifted up: _they will come yet_. Some New Year's bells will
"Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be."
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